Volume 45 Number 45

Picture yourself gay dancing

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arts@sfbg.com

SOUND TO SPARE For some gays the definition of a good night out dancing isn’t Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, or whatever else is making it in music’s top 40 these days. Instead, we go against the grain, defy the unwritten rules, and satiate our dance floor needs to more primal, aggressive tunes. Enter Erase Errata.

Listening to the San Francisco rock trio recalls a time in my youth when I transitioned out of baggy JNCO cargo pants and tingly, mind-numbing pills into the stark contrast of a much grittier, more realistic yet still liquor-soaked world of sounds. Through them I was encouraged to picture myself alive and dancing. Though I was thousands of miles away from the creature they so vividly described in the song “The White Horse if Bucking,” I somehow knew that greener pastures lay ahead, bucking and all.

Launched in Oakland in 1999, categorized as lesbian post-punk anthem-makers or no-wave revivalists, and responsible for some of the most contagious dance-rock albums (Other Animals from 2001 and 2003’s At Crystal Palace), Erase Errata is back, sharing a bill with longtime friends, local trio Bronze, at the Fri/12 release show for Bronze’s first full-length, Copper (RVNG Intl. Records), coming out September 13.

I recently sat with Erase Errata’s Jenny Hoyston and Bronze’s Rob Spector at the bustling Duboce Park Café, sipped tea at an outdoor tables. I imagined it must be a little weird for Hoyston, who just spent three years in Portland, Oregon living life as a full-time “upper-lower class accountant,” to return to music and live in a slightly different San Francisco. We touched on the recent changes the city has gone through since her absence — local music institutions like KUSF and the Eagle Tavern’s Thursday Night Live are either struggling for existence or have disappeared altogether. However, they both agree that there are too many creative types in the Bay for the scene to be successfully shut down.

They shared horror stories of Erase Errata’s otherwise triumphant reappearance at Public Works during San Francisco Pride, when New Orleans sissy bounce queen headliner Big Freedia was (not surprisingly) revealed to be a dressing-room diva who needed the backstage area cleared before entering. Even Hoyston got sissy bounced. Freedia then turned on the sound man, they said, nitpicking to the point where he was allegedly told to leave. The two witnesses could only cringe.

“People don’t care what you sound like,” Spector said. Hoyston agreed that it was unfortunate to “flip-out” on the sound guy. She should know, now that she’s running the sound board at El Rio, and on some nights playing the role of part-time DJ. When I asked if she had a secret-weapon jam in her arsenal that packs ’em on the dance floor, she shook her head and referred to the type of aforementioned top 40 hits. I joked that her moniker should be DJ Malice, since she admits to doing this to sort of torture her audience. (Alas, “Malice” was already taken by a stripper she recalls from her time in the Pacific Northwest.)

For now, we’ll just have to look forward to thrashing about as Hoyston and her band mates entertain us with relentless bass lines, swarms of guitars, and lyrics that alternate between simplistic and complex, delivered with Hoyston’s peculiar intonation.

Speaking of intonation and vocal delivery, I pussy-footed around a bit when it came to addressing what I consider to be Spector’s androgynous voice. I told him that when I first heard Bronze’s “One Night In Mexico” his genderless voice entranced me. He said he gets a lot of comparisons to Nico.

Bronze’s new album features that weird custom-built synthesizer that has caused a lot of fascination at live performances. As a bonus, the designers of the album’s sleeve actually incorporate a thin strip of copper that can be bent in the shape of a ring and worn. It’s pretty slick for rough and charming sounds, a bangle for a future recovered. 

BRONZE w/Erase Errata, Nature, Loto Ball

Fri/12, 9 p.m., $7

El Rio

3158 Mission, SF.

www.elriosf.com

 

Black secret technology

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Detroit. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Maybe someone forwarded you a link to a fascinating ruin porn slideshow of its abandoned skyscrapers and crumbled mansions. Or you’ve clicked on one of the innumerable feature stories about young, homesteading pioneers plowing new fields among the wind-blasted industrial decay. Maybe your grandfather has shook his head at the glory that used to be the Big Three, a multi-billion dollar auto industry now propped up by government funds. Or perhaps you’ve appeared in a sequined gown and endless gloves in one of your black-and-white snooze-button dreams, backed by Mary and Flo, cooing out “Where Did Our Love Go?”

If you’ve been anywhere near a good club in the past year, you’ve definitely heard Detroit — one thing those strangely same-y media narratives always seem to omit is the other huge industry that Detroit has spawned, namely techno. That’s fine, real techno should always fly beneath the mainstream eye, a Cybertronic bird with tingling feathers and a killer beak-beak-beak.

Yet even in the underground Detroit’s techno legacy was threatened with obliteration: the explosion of bedroom producers who came of age during the minimal era of the late 2000s looked to Berlin for inspiration, rather than the Midwest. The wave of original Detroit innovators had become diffuse. You could sense a struggle for a Grand Unified Theory of Detroit Techno Now to present to newcomers who, after all, couldn’t exactly consult a textbook on such things. To them, “Detroit” was more of an archetypal ideal than an actual sound. And there was only so much jawing on about the good old days us dance floor seniors could do without being put out to the House Nation pasture. (There are Smart Drinks, nappy dreads, hoop earrings, Maurice Malone overalls, and a lot more bass there.)

Berlin has every right to claim the techno megalopolis crown — it’s done more as a civic entity to promote the music than Detroit could afford — and, hearteningly, it takes pains to venerate its Motor City forebear. No coincidence that one of Germany’s freshest acts is Motor City Drum Ensemble or that the brilliant Berlin club Tresor greets entrants with a giant “Detroit” sign. And it’s not as if Detroit went away — minimal was balanced out by the disco-funk re-edit scene, pioneered by Detroit techno heroes Moodymann and Theo Parrish.

Luckily, the smart kids will always be curious, and Detroit has been thrust back into the spotlight by a yearning for history, depth, and basics in the global techno scene. An awesome, corresponding glut is now upon us of touring DJs from the D to satisfy that need.

In the past two months alone San Francisco has seen appearances by Kevin Saunderson, Mike Huckaby, MK, Scottie Deep, Stacy Pullen, Dan Bell, and honorary Detroiter Richie Hawtin. Jeff Mills, Carl Craig, and Moodymann were here last year. And, this weekend, Parrish himself comes, along with fantastic unsung hero of the early years Claude Young, who isn’t afraid to scratch things up a little. Just announced? Two of techno’s Big Three, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson (who along with Juan Atkins invented and popularized the whole damn thing) performing together in November in their Hi Tek Soul guise.

One of the real joys of this latest Detroit resurgence, and one it would be most painful to lose: the reclamation of techno as a black musical form, a poetic permutation of soul, rejiggered by freaky sci-fi nerds with one ear attuned to space-jazz, another to krautrock and synthpop, and a third to down-and-dirty electro-funk. Or, as May’s famous formulation has it, “a complete mistake … like George Clinton and Kraftwerk caught in an elevator, with only a sequencer to keep them company.”

As commercial techno claims larger and larger arenas and the Motor City slips further into media cliché, it’s the perfect time to gather back at the roots. Oh, and dancing.

THEO PARRISH

Fri/12, 10 p.m.-3:30 a.m., $10–$20

Public Works

161 Erie, SF.

www.publicsf.com

 

CLAUDE YOUNG

at the Sunset Boat Party

Sun/14, 5 p.m., $45 advance

Pier 3 (Washington and Embarcadero)

www.pacificsound.net

 

HI TEK SOUL

w/ Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson

November 12, 10 p.m.-late

Public Works

 

 

Best SF smiles: The Best of the Bay winners photo

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We like to call it “the best picture in San Francisco.” It’s the annual Best of the Bay winners photo — with more than 350 winners standing together at our recent party at Horatius, smiling and saying “best of” for the camera. 

Go here to see the winners…

And here to see them with their identifying numbers

For a personal copy of the winners photo go to www.printroom.com/pro/patmazzera

Click to the next page for our numbers guide.

 

 

20. Adris Beasley; 21. Simone Coulars; 22. DG Blackburn; 23. Rana Kapoor; 24. Aldo de la Cruz; 25. Michael Ziabel; 26. Christopher Carter; 27. Kanoa Blodgett; 28. Rich Henry; 29. Julian Lute; 30. Adam Szyndrowski; 31. Mandy O’doul; 32. Miranda Caroligne; 33. Mary Kay Chin; 34. Shaw San Liu; 36. Pandora Nair; 37. Derek Schultz; 38. Helen Pappas; 39. Keyko Riuz ; 41. Jamie Sage Cotton; 42. Lancy Woo; 44. Jonathan Tuite; 45. Michael Lopez; 46. Ron Robinson; 48. Kayoko Pinto; 49. Christian Cunningham; 50. Brown Amy; 51. Adrian Roberts; 53. Michele Melton; 54. Pali Boucher; 55. Tim Archuleta; 56. Jaime Botello; 57. Maryam Tavakoli; 58. Kayla Turner; 59. Webster Granger; 60. Kathryn Haskeel; 62. Philip Campbell; 63. Mark Bowen; 64. Alexa Vickroy; 66. Crystal Higgins-Peterson; 67. Nichole Spencer; 68. Kendra Rae; 69. Brucius ; 70. Oran Scott; 72. Joel Pomerantz; 145. Jairo Vargas; 147. Declanne Campbell; 148. Jane McIntyre; 149. Michael Illumin; 150. Sasha Kelley; 151. Cody Frost; 152. Bryce Campe; 153. Benjamin Bac Sierra; 154. Shannon Amitin; 155. Jan-Henry Gray; 156. Eleanor Gerber-Siff; 157. M. W. ; 160. Satoko Kojima; 161. James Fong; 234. Pedro Gomez ; 235. Rana Chang; 236. Amir Hosseini; 237. Rebecca Prieto; 238. Justine Kessler; 239. Tim Choy; 240. Travis Zano Abbott; 241. Domingo Licon; 242. Leticia Lara; 243. Joseph E. Pearson; 244. Jimmy Lara; 245. Ariana Akbar; 246. James Kafader; 247. Emilio Freire; 248. Bruno Soto; 249. Alexis Ramirez; 250. Alexa Trevino; 251. Ivan Lopez; 252. Shakeel the iPhone Guy; 253. Isaac Rodriguez; 254. Jara RA; 255. Sandra Michaan; 256. Adam Spiegel; 257. Thomas Friel; 258. Eboni Senai Hawkins; 259. Brock Keeling; 260. T. J. Jackovick; 262. Natalie Nuxx; 263. Marcel A. Baudwin; 265. Anna Gazdowicz; 266. Devon Devine; 267. Deidre Roberts; 268. Heklina; 270. Lina Abuarafeh; 271. Erin Archuleta; 272. Therese Batacian; 273. Catherine Tchen ; 274. June Gallardo; 275. Mauricio Arce; 276. Debi Cohn; 277. Thomas John; 278. Abe Pedroza; 279. Gerard Koskovich; 280. Julia Cabrita; 281. Laura Brief; 282. DJ Carnita; 285. Edwin Escobar; 286. Shannon Young; 287. Eva Marez; 288. Paul Freedman; 290. Ian Deleporte; 291. Todd N. Koester; 292. Adrienne Calcote; 293. Whitney Branco; 294. Natasha Rempe; 295. Dixie De La Tour; 296. John Western; 297. Jan Meric; 298. Steve Barrew Ecaea; 299. Sydney Leung; 300. Frank Biafore; 302. Adam Smith; 303. Melyssa Mendoza; 304. Wenlan Rong;  304. Wenlan Rong; 305. Rita Garcia; 306. Michael Thanos; 307. Luis Vasquez; 308. Justin Anastasi; 309. Damon Way; 310. Shannon O’Malley; 311. Keith Wilson; 312. Anjan Mitra; 313. Emily Mitra; 314. Benjamin A. Pease; 315. Shizue Seigel; 316. Makoto Imaizumi; 317. Mark Furr; 318. Angela Chavez; 320. Ava Roy; 321. Damon Styer; 322. Johnny Funcheap; 323. Dylan Salisbury; 324. Laura Bellizzi; 325. Camper English; 326. Peter Kasin; 327. J. Tony Serra; 328. Donna Flint; 330. Ariel S. Feingold; 331. Tim Thompson; 332. Ken Rowe; 333. Tristan O’Tierney; 334. David Williams; 335. Alicia Albarran; 337. Michael Wolf; 340. Naomi Beck; 341. Renato Gresuani ; 343. Matt Mikesell; 344. Randy Gardner; 345. Brittany Gale; 346. Kory Salsbury; 347. Josué Argüelles; 348. Dauric O Flaithbheartaigh; 349. Briana Miranda; 350. Brendan Getzell; 352. Stuart Bousel; 353. Raffi Meric; 354. Marcia Gagliardí; 355. David Roche; 356. Angela Bakas; 360. Daniel Grove; 361. Alex Von Wolff; 362. Kristine Vejar; 363. Jarrad Webster; 365. Rich Ibarra; 366. Pat Cadam; 367. Nathaniel Justiniani; 368. Wassana Korkhieola; 369. Kitty Me-ow McMuffin; 370. Keith Houston; 371. Ernesto Gonzalez; 372. Molly Tyson; 424. Ellen McCarthy; 425. Kristina Quinones; 426. Nicholas Smilgys; 427. Momek Pedeni; 428. Kate Starr; 429. Ben Rotnicki; 430. Walt Von Hauffe; 431. Colleen Mauer; 432. Karen Roze; 433. Paz De la Calzada;  434. Peter Blick; 435. Jeff Whitmore; 436. Dustin Toshiyuki; 437. Hillary Bergmann; 438. Jennifer Pattee; 439. Matthew Quirk; 441. Sam Haynor; 442. Will Greene; 443. Bettina Limaco; 444. Christine Friel; 445. Dlaitan Callendaer-Scott; 446. Steven Baker; 447. Brian Davis; 448. Benjamin Seabury; 449. Suzanne Long; 450. Kristine Vejar; 451. Jeff Ng; 452. Jane Underwood; 453. Dion Larot; 454.  Victor R. Menacho; 455. Kali Lambson; 456. Lexi Lipstick; 457. Akash Kapoor; 458. Louise Glasgon; 459. Harrison Chustang; 462. Jeremy Adam Smith; 463. M. Levy; 464. Nio Anderson; 465. Rebecca Katz; 466. Kat Brown; 467. Charlie O’Hanlon; 468. Lauren Sadler; 469. Stephanie Foster; 470. Chris Beale; 471. Bethanie Hines; 472. Zenobia Bracy; 474. Clare’s’ Deli; 475. Bryce Beastall;  476. Derek Hena; 477. Alex Rivas; 478. Ben Van Horter; 479. Thomas Valotta; 480. Paul McWilliams; 481. Janice Whaley; 482. Mick Aguilera; 483. Reynaldo R. Cayetano Jr.; 484. Rebecca Cate; 485. Martin Cate; 486. Charles Coffee; 487. Serge Bakalian;  488. Sandy Handler; 489. David Handler; 490. Maryln Sevilla; 491. Jim Sweeney; 492. David Gordon; 494.  Frances Rath; 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Volume 45 Number 45 Flip-through Edition

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A gutsy legacy

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Movies today might be a gutless affair if not for the industry of Herschell Gordon Lewis a half-century ago. Literally gutless — you have Lewis to thank for every splattersome moment of exposed entrails and explicit gougings since.

Oh sure, the restrictions against graphic violence in U.S. cinema would have lapsed eventually, degree by degree. But who else would have had the nerve to do it all in one swoop with a movie as early, and thoroughly tasteless, as 1963’s Blood Feast? Nothing like it had existed before, and those few who noticed it outside rural drive-in and urban grindhouse viewers surely wished it never would again. (The L.A. Times called it “a blot on the American film industry,” Variety “an insult to even the most puerile and salacious audiences.”) A futile wish, that.

Next week sees the DVD release of, incredibly, 82-year-old Lewis’ latest feature: The Uh-Oh! Show, a reality TV spoof whose game contestants win fabulous prizes for getting answers right — and suffer grisly body-part losses if they don’t. A month later Image Entertainment and Something Weird will spring both a “Blood Trilogy” Blu-ray set of his first three horror “classics,” as well as Jimmy Maslon and Basket Case (1982) director Frank Henenlotter’s documentary portrait Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore. The latter features such fans as Joe Bob Briggs and John Waters, surviving collaborators, and of course Lewis himself tracing his infamous influential cinematic path amidst myriad original clips.

This was not begun as a personal mission of rebellion, perversity, or artistic aspiration, but for sheer profit pursuit. After checking out possible careers from radio to teaching English Lit, he found a Chicago berth in advertising, which eventually led to making commercials and buying out a small production company. Figuring there was more moolah in features, Lewis partnered with producer Dave Friedman and found some success via pre-porn “nudie cuties” with titles like Boin-n-g and Goldilocks and the Three Bares (both 1963).

Just as they’d imitated Russ Meyer, however, others soon imitated them, overcrowding the field with topless frolics. What other naughty but inexpensive concept could they exploit that others hadn’t milked dry yet? The answer was Blood Feast, shot in nine days for $20,000, wherein an alleged caterer (the wildly hammy Mal Arnold as “Fuad Ramses”) gathering ingredients for a socialite’s “Egyptian feast” rips limbs and whatnot from comely young women to revive an ancient goddess.

The acting was atrocious (especially by Playboy centerfold star Connie Mason), the script was laughable, and the craftsmanship primitive at best. When Blood premiered at a Peoria, Ill. drive-in, viewers howled with laughter — then hurled, as on-screen victims had brains, tongues, etc. separated from their person, then dangled in front of the camera at length. (These local butcher-shop bits often grew rather ripe by shooting time; pity the poor actress who had to stuff a rank cow tongue in her mouth.) Friedman and Lewis duly provided souvenir vomit bags at future venues. They had a hit.

Plenty more such followed, though Friedman eventually went off to L.A. to make his own sexier cheapies (such as 1968’s Nude Django and Thar She Blows!, and 1971’s The Big Snatch). Feast‘s immediate follow-up Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) was a comparatively elaborate horror comedy that remains Lewis’ personal favorite. But when it failed to make more money despite improved production values, he learned his lesson and kept costs dirt cheap. By 1972’s The Gore Gore Girls, even he realized he’d taken red paint and animal innards as far over-the-top as they could go, leaving the movie biz to become a highly successful guru of direct marketing. Until a rising tide of cult rediscovery finally prompted a larky return in 2002’s Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat, that is.

At nearly two hours, The Godfather of Gore covers a lot of ground, guided by an octogenarian subject who’s still every inch the flamboyant salesman. Beyond the horror films, it touches on Lewis’ forays into biker action (1968’s incredible She-Devils on Wheels), juvenile delinquency (1968’s Just for the Hell of It), hicksploitation (1972’s Year of the Yahoo!) and even children’s entertainment (1967’s The Magic Land of Mother Goose).

Several other lesser-known 60s features are now considered lost, although it’s too bad Godfather doesn’t make room for such extant obscurities as Miss Nymphet’s Zap-In (1970) and the great wife-swapping saga Suburban Roulette (1968), whose theme song promises “ring-a-dingin’ with that swingin’ set,” while the trailer posits 1968 Illinois suburbia as “where the stakes are as high as the morality is low.”

Return of the rock

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emilysavage@sfbg.com

MUSIC Outside Lands has stepped up its game in its fourth year. The mix of bands this time around is truly inspired — if a bit pilfered from old lineups at other fests like Treasure Island. No matter, it’s riding high in 2011.

This was not always the case. Last year, the Golden Gate Park festival seemed lackluster in the music department; the lineup wasn’t as solid as it had been previously, and it lacked that one giant-but-dependably-awesome act like Radiohead (or this year’s Arcade Fire). In the process, it may have lost a festival-goer or two.

It also went down to just two days in 2010 (it was three in 2008 and 2009), which Another Planet Entertainment vice president Allen Scott says was originally the plan. He later added, “[Last] year there weren’t a lot of touring headliners because of the recession. A lot of bands and artists decided to take last year off.”

This year, however, it’s back to long-weekend status. Saturday is already sold out, unless you want to do it up big and invest in a three-day pass or VIP tickets. That leaves, as of press time, the option of going either Friday or Sunday.

The highlights below are meant to help you more easily maneuver your way through the thick bustle of crowds and trees when you get out to those green fields. For the most part, I steered clear of headliners, since those are the artists who likely inspired your decision to attend in the first place. Here’s how to get the most (audio) bang for your buck.

 

FRIDAY

Do not miss:

Big Boi: Despite Big Boi’s arrest for drug possession last weekend, Scott says, “We are expecting Big Boi to be performing at Outside Lands this Friday.” Chances are, you were not one of the lucky few who jumped on tickets to see Big Boi at the Independent earlier this year — a venue far smaller than his usual digs. Needless to say, that show was way, way sold out. While the Outside Lands stage is far larger, his presence with silky-smooth vocals and casual flowing skills are big enough to dominate.

Joy Formidable: The acclaimed Welsh trio has been lauded for ushering a return to ’90s-era pop and shoegaze. With driving guitar riffs and strong female vocals, there’s a definite glint of Breeders in there. Dave Grohl, a man well familiar with the grunge decade, chose the band to open for Foo Fighters later this year.

Toro Y Moi: South Carolina native Chaz Bundick, known as Toro Y Moi on stage, is one of those talented genre smashers. His sophomore album Underneath the Pine, which came out earlier this year, has elements of dance, funk, and dream pop; Bundick is said to be influenced by French house, ’80s R&B, and Stones Throw hip-hop. And you can throw a little Off the Wall-era Michael Jackson in there as well.

Worth checking out:

Kelley Stoltz: He’s got connections with Sonny Smith (of Sonny and the Sunsets) — he appeared on the Sunsets’ album Tomorrow is Alright — but Kelley Stoltz is a talented musician to watch in his own right. The singer-songwriter-guitarist is at the heart of San Francisco’s garage scene, has been compared to Brian Wilson (Beach Boy, not Giant), and will likely perform tracks off his excellent 2010 Sub Pop release To Dreamers.

 

SATURDAY

Do not miss:

Black Keys: With just two members, the Black Keys has a notoriously big sound. This will travel well, even if you’re stuck towards the back of the crowd, and that deep soul will likely cause some uncontrollable shoulder shaking.

Old 97s: One of the early pioneers of alt-country, Old 97s was at the forefront of a new classification of music in the early ’90s. Since then, singer Rhett Miller has struck out on his own with well-received solo albums, but catching his sound where it all started is a rarer treat.

Worth checking out:

STRFKR: Portland, Ore.-based dance pop quartet STRFKR (pronounced “Starfucker”) injects emotion into live electronic dance music. Call it that now-retro genre electro pop, call it the LCD Soundsystem effect, call it whatever you wish: just dance.

 

SUNDAY

Do not miss:

Beirut: Beirut doesn’t play very often — the last time it stopped in San Francisco was at the Treasure Island Festival in 2008 — but when it does, it’s imperative that you watch. The result is an inspired jumble of brass horns and ukulele, Balkan folk, and Eastern European-influenced torch songs. Band leader Zachary Condon’s vocals soar live and he emotes convincingly at each stop.

Deadmau5: The tripped-out lights, lasers, and holograms of the show are worth sticking around for regardless of sound. But Deadmau5, nestled in a lit-up diamond cube and wearing an oversize foam mouse head, does bring music as well; it’s haunting yet danceable electronica with moving beats and breakdowns.

tUne-YarDs: Colorful, paint-streaked Merrill Garbus (a.k.a. tUne-YarDs) could likely be dubbed acid queen of 2011 — minus any actual drugs. Her looping drums, ukulele, and bass compositions are a dizzying work of art. And if you’ve seen her weirdo video for “Bizness,” you know she’s got a few unique ideas floating around. All that brain power manifests itself into a superior live show. Plus, she brought “two free-jazzing saxophonists” to the Pitchfork Music Festival, so here’s hoping she’ll do the same in her adopted Bay Area home.

Worth checking out:

Fresh & Onlys: The band may on the verge of outgrowing this place, but for now, Fresh & Onlys can be described as very San Francisco. As in, its music is one of a few local favorites to be included in the Hemlock Tavern’s meticulously selective jukebox. The garage rockers play moody, ’80s-tinged rock ‘n’ roll — soundtrack music for backseat teenage make-out sessions.

Major Lazer: You know Diplo, that guy who made M.I.A. good? He is also a member of Major Lazer, along with another producer you may know through M.I.A., Switch. Diplo has described Major Lazer’s sound as “digital reggae and dancehall from Mars in the future,” which: yeah. The show includes eye-popping costumes, hype men, and a refreshing bent towards live audio.

 

OUTSIDE LANDS MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL Fri/12-Sun/14, noon, $85 Golden Gate Park, SF www.sfoutsidelands.com

Fear and longing

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arts@sfbg.com

Dreams and drawings, cats and fantasies, ambition and aimlessness, and the mild-mannered yet mortifying games people play, all wind their way into Miranda July’s The Future. The future’s a scary place, as many of us fully realize, even if you hide from it well into your 30s, losing yourself in the everyday. But you can’t duck July’s collection of moments, objects, and small gestures transformed into something strangely slanted and enchanted, both weird and terrifying, when viewed through July’s looking glass.

With The Future, which evolved out of a performance titled Things We Don’t Understand and Definitely Are Not Going to Talk About, July explains, “I think there was a lot of stuff that I didn’t want to talk about — that I found really embarrassing. Why talk about [making art]? Isn’t it a lot cooler just to make a movie that doesn’t have that in it? Since obviously the great fear of someone in my position would be that you wouldn’t be able to make something — and what would happen then? But it’s also really interesting to me that you devote your life to doing this and it doesn’t stop being interesting, like, how ideas come and when they don’t.”

At the moment July (2005’s Me and You and Everyone We Know) seems perfectly imperfectly in step with the world she’s in: an opulently beige meeting room at the Four Seasons. I can’t stop studying her shocking pink lips and matching glittery collar, happily clashing with her camel sweater, as she averts those star-child, sky-blue peepers to stare intently at the pen in her hands. Despite seeming as dazzled by life as a child, she chooses her words scrupulously, as if her existence depended on it, and punctuates the end of almost every sentence with a gently-hurled exclamation point of a “yeah.” The careful consideration coloring her words and appearance obviously finds its way, stumbling and fumbling gracefully, into her films, performances, and short stories, as well as the assignments she assembled with Harrell Fletcher for the online art project Learning to Love You More.

Care and commitment — to oneself and others — are two vivid threads running through The Future. Cute couple Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater) — unsettling look-alikes with their curly crops — appear at first to be sailing contently, aimlessly toward an undemanding unknown: Jason works from home as a customer-service operator, and Sophie attempts to herd kiddies as a children’s dance instructor. But enormous, frightening demands beckon — namely the oncoming adoption of a special-needs feline named Paw-Paw (voiced by July as if it’s a traumatized, innocent child). Lickety-splitsville, they must be all they can be before Paw-Paw’s arrival, so the pair quit their jobs as Sophie tries to set up a Julie and Julia-style online stunt designed to make her a YouTube dance hit and Jason drifts into environmental activist work that sends him into the orbits of anyone who answers the door. In the meantime, Sophie gets pulled into the suburban vortex of a random man (David Warshofsky) that Jason meets at Paw-Paw’s shelter. The weirdness of the familiar, and the kindness of strangers, become ways into fantasy and escape when the couple bumps up against the limits of their imagination.

This ultra-low-key horror movie of the banal is obviously remote territory for July. The Future is her best film to date and finds her tumbling into a kind of magical realism or plastic fantastic, embodied by a talking cat that becomes the conscience of the movie. “Sometimes I’d see the cat as Sophie and Jason’s unborn child and sometimes I would see it as one’s own relationship to one’s parents — the part of oneself that’s always waiting for their parent, long past where that makes any sense at all, even for people whose parents are dead,” she explains. “You still, on some level, are waiting for them to come get you, and the death of that hope in a way is both really sad and also maybe the beginning of kind of growing up.”

Certain events in Berkeley-bred July’s life pointed toward the major turning points of The Future. “I got married at that time, and I think that makes me think a lot about the future — and maybe the end of your life more?” she recalls. “You’re committing to someone till the end, so it suddenly seems, at least on paper, that you’ll know one person who will be there at the end — or you’ll be there at the end of their life. That brought time into focus. Also being a woman in my mid-30s, y’know, you have a special relationship to time suddenly, as far as the question of having children — so all those things were swirling.” Yet she claims she never fully realized she’d be grappling with something as potentially horrifying as the future on film: “If I thought I was making a movie about the future, I probably would have not made it —yeah! I don’t really attack subjects like that. It has to be more mysterious than that to me. I’m not that conscious when I’m writing.”

If we could all see into the future, with an oracle’s specs in place, what would we dare to make it out? Peering into the future, as a riot grrrl follower in the late ’90s, I would never have imagined sitting across from July, telling her about my pilgrimage up to Yo-Yo a Go-Go in Olympia, Wash., to see her first full-fledged multimedia performance, Love Diamond. The past and future are still intertwined, much as the riot grrrl years continue to resonate with July: she plans to launch the Web archive of her Joanie4Jackie project, which collected women’s short films via video chain letter and birthed a community of DIY female filmmakers.

“I still have a lot of friends from that time, so we’re all kind of old riot grrrls now!” she says with a little laugh. “It’s still great to see that there are things about it that did matter and were really formative, and we’re all much better for having had each other and this sense of — call it revolution or call it self-importance. Nonetheless, they weren’t easy things we were trying to do, creating a space to feel free and safe to make things in.”

THE FUTURE opens Fri/19 in Bay Area theaters.

 

Straw

2

paulr@sfbg.com

We don’t typically use the expression “start-up” when talking about restaurants — the phrase belongs to Techtopia and implies, at least to me, oceans of venture capital and huge salaries for people who run companies that don’t make money. But if we did, Straw would be an ideal one. It’s the sort of place one saw quite a few of in the early to mid 1990s, in that interval between the disasters of stock-market-crash-earthquake-war-fire and the start of the first tech boom. In that moment, people seemed to feel a renewed sense of optimism but didn’t have pots of money. The result was a sequence of new restaurants offering superior food, high value, and modest (sometimes DIY) décor. If you couldn’t afford to have Cass Calder Smith design your dining room, you could still somehow let it be known, through the medium of unprepossessingness, that you were reserving your best efforts for the food and service.

Straw, in this important sense, feels like a throwback from 1995. The restaurant (which opened in January) is small and slightly scruffy and is in an old building — a small oddity along Octavia Boulevard, which is newness itself and has been the occasion for all sorts of fresh construction in the past few years. The white walls, slightly scuffed, are hung with carnival posters, and some of the window seating seems to have been salvaged from a ride at a state fair somewhere. We haven’t had a place like this in more than a decade, I don’t think, not since the days when 3 Ring tried to make its circus theme fly in the old Val 21 space (now Dosa) on Valencia.

What kind of food would you expect to find at a carnival? Straw does provide some witty answers to this question, but the menu ranges gracefully beyond the obvious, which is to say the fried. Still, the fried stuff is good — a basket of little corn dogs ($7.75) made of Niman Ranch beef and looking like batter-fried musket balls. These were wonderfully crisp and juicy, and the trio of dipping sauces — nacho cheese, spicy ketchup, and ranch dressing — each had a strong enough personality to make them distinct, one from the others. The prawn ceviche ($7.75), boldly seasoned with habanero, lime, cilantro, and red pepper was presented in a fried tortilla cup, the kind tortilla salads come in, along with some tortilla chips on the side. These turned out to be good for dispensing with the last of the corndog sauces.

But not everything is fried, and the kitchen helps itself to a wide variety of influences. Grilled cobs of corn ($4) sprinkled with feta cheese, cayenne, and chili powder and presented with fresh lime and what the menu calls, with charming redundancy, “garlic aioli,” seemed to have Mexican roots, while the mac ‘n’ cheese ($5), fortified with bacon and slices of apple (an excellent idea) was a nice little crock of Americana.

The menu is also vegetarian-friendly — and not just in the small dishes, though quite a few of those are meatless, among them the tomato soup, pretzel bites, and several of the salads. An entrée called samba on subuco ($12), festively joined chunks of butternut squash and eggplant in a slightly sweet (but not cloying) coconut-milk curry broth reminiscent of many a hormak talay in Thai restaurants. This dish succeeded for me, despite the eggplant, which managed to be both rubbery and mushy.

Places are found for flesh too, often cleverly. We were particularly impressed by the satchemo ($15), a bed of creamy white grits carefully inlaid with sautéed prawns, leaves of linguiça, and green filet beans. Apart from being flavorful and well-balanced, the dish was beautiful to look at: like a tile taken from the palace of an Ottoman pasha.

I was a little less impressed with the picadilly ($14.75), if only because I wonder if a fish as marvelous as ahi tuna needs to be turned into fish sticks. Ahi, like beef, can stand on its own and is generally best when standing on its own. It doesn’t take all that kindly to elaborate treatments and back-room, hardball techniques like breading and frying. Doing that to a nice piece of ahi is a little like getting out your best lead crystal to serve some Diet Coke. The accompanying mayonnaise was astounding, however.

No carnival would be complete without a root beer float, and Straw offers a nice one ($5.50), made with root beer gelato and served with a straw (!)— not exactly radical ideas but sound ones. The more radical idea was laying little sticks of candied bacon atop an almost impossibly creamy peanut butter pie ($6) in a chocolate crust. Peanut butter and chocolate are one of sweetdom’s divine combinations (also totally New World), and I’d never heard the pair were looking for a third, certainly not pork. The truth is that the pie would have been fine without it. But the meat brought a bit of salty-sweet chewiness for contrast, and the result was better than fair.

STRAW

Dinner: Mon.-Sat., 5-10 p.m.; Sun., 5-9 p.m.

Brunch: Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

203 Octavia, SF

(415) 431-3663

www.strawsf.com

Full bar

MC/V

Noisy

Wheelchair accessible

 

Tasty tunes

0

virginia@sfbg.com

FESTIVAL Outside Lands has been descending on lush Golden Gate Park for three years now. As the music lineup continues to feature some of the biggest acts on the summer tour circuit, the festival’s local food and drink offerings have been steadily increasing their profile. A Taste of the Bay Area, OL’s edible arena, hosts 54 food vendors, and 30 wineries and winemakers pour 100 different wines amid whimsical barrel seating under the big tent of Wine Lands. As if our dancecards weren’t already full of all the music we want to see!

To maximize your opportunities to stuff yourself, we’ve compiled an eating-drinking guide for the weekend that pairs just a few of each day’s musicians with harmonious eats. Also included: suggestions for your inter-set hydration intervals. (Read: the best booze and caffeine on offer.)

 

FRIDAY

New Orleans Klezmer Allstars, noon, Land’s End Stage Take traditional Jewish klezmer, amplify to the power of New Orleans, and suddenly you have New Orleans Klezmer Allstars on your hands. As you’re gyrating wildly to the sounds of the group’s clarinet and accordion, snack on some fried kosher dill pickles. Those Fabulous Frickle Brothers will be serving deep fried “frickle” chips and fried green tomatoes perfect for dipping in the booth’s cukaracha Sriracha, or perhaps its tasty curry mustard.

Drink interlude Avail yourself to a range of Kermit Lynch’s imported wines — the Berkeley local (a musician himself) was a key player in the introduction of French wines to the United States.

Phish, 6:30 p.m., Land’s End Stage Call us hippies, but what could go better with the ultimate jam band high than sweet summer produce? Full Belly Farms will be offering plump melons, peaches, tomatoes, corn, green beans, and bell peppers. Another farm-fresh pick: cucumber-melon spritzers from Flour + Water’s soon-to-open Salumeria. Pick up a porchetta sandwiches there to counteract all that good health.

Big Audio Dynamite, 7 p.m., Twin Peak Stage Don’t call it a comeback. With the return of Big Audio Dynamite (BAD), playful good times are sure to ensue — a perfect pair for Hayes Valley restaurant Straw’s Outside Lands carnival game, (also called Playful), which will be taking place in the Corral area of the festival. Don’t worry if you don’t win any prizes — Straw’s sweet potato tots and its falafel and schawarma snow cones will be reward enough.

Erykah Badu, 7:50 p.m., Sutro Stage Maybe you won’t be at your sexiest while slurping Split Pea Seduction’s soups, but sounds from the sultry Ms. Badu make a creation like sweet corn and smoked trout chowder oh-so-alluring — not to mention the stand’s spit-roasted lamb and Puerto Rican pork pernil sandwiches.

 

SATURDAY

Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers, 12:05 p.m., Sutro Stage Nicki Bluhm’s lazy sunny day tunes will make it feel like summer, even if (when) the fog rolls into Golden Gate Park. Fresh seafood can also bring out that summer shine, particularly Woodhouse Fish Co.’s BBQ or fresh oysters. Even better for when that condensation does convene is its excellent clam chowder.

Drink interlude Elegant Rhône varietals and Chardonnay from the central coast’s Qupé winery have made many a fan forget the next set they wanted to see.

The Black Keys, 6:15 p.m., Land’s End Stage The guttural blues rock of Ohio natives Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney is sure to be one of this year’s highlights. The group is the first ever act to play multiple years at Outside Lands, so you’ll want real crowd pleasing snacks at its show. Nombe’s ever-satisfying Japanese izakaya eats should fit the bill — its popular chicken wings, honey-sweetened, lime-and-fish-sauce perky, rarely leave their audience underplussed. Nombe will also be serving up odango (fried rice balls) and fried tofu for vegetarian music lovers.

The Roots, 6:50 p.m., Twin Peaks Stage The Roots have been interjecting ensemble musicianship into the hip-hop scene since 1987. You know what else is keeping it real? American Grilled Cheese Kitchen. We look forward to seeing what multi-voiced sandwiches it will be grilling up — will the Jalapeno Popper with chèvre, jack, applewood-smoked bacon, and apricot-jalapeño relish make an appearance? What about the Mousetrap, with its sharp cheddar, havarti, and jack?

Drink interlude Wind Gap’s grapes are grown from the Sonoma Coast down to Paso Robles, resulting in earnest, heartfelt wines that express a sampling of California’s terroir. Known for its syrahs, the winery also produces Chardonnay, grenache, and pinot gris.

Muse, 8:10 p.m., Land’s End Stage All of Muse’s dramatic intensity and rock opera influences mean you’ll need to lube up your vocal chords if you want to hit those soaring vocals alongside frontman Matthew Bellamy. Down a cup of Juice To You’s energizing green juice, watermelon juice, or Thai young coconut water before you belt it out.

 

SUNDAY

Drink interlude Hedge your energy for the last day of festivities with Ritual Coffee Roaster’s iced joe or a strong coffee brew from Philz.

Mavis Staples, 1:45 p.m., Land’s End Stage From her days with the Staples Singers to her latest Grammy-winning, Jeff Tweedy-produced album You Are Not Alone, this woman bleeds heart and soul. You’ll taste both in 4505 Meats’ raved-about chicharrones and hot dogs, Namu’s Korean tacos, or Rosamunde’s beer, chicken-cherry, and apple-sage sausages.

Drink interlude Manhattan restaurateur and sommelier Paul Grieco of Hearth and Terroir Wine Bar will be at the festival on his Summer of Riesling tour, touting — you guessed it — refreshing, crisp rieslings.

Julieta Venegas, 3:50 p.m., Sutro Stage Tijuana native Julieta Venegas has earned fans globally with her Spanish language rock. Augment her Latina vibes with El Huarache Loco’s huaraches or Little Chihuahua’s dreamy fried plantain-black bean burritos. For dessert skip to the Southern Hemisphere for mouth-watering Argentinean treats: Sabores del Sur’s dreamy alfajores, powdered sugar-dusted butter cookies sandwiched around creamy dulce de leche.

John Fogerty, 4:45 p.m., Land’s End Stage Creedence Clearwater Revival’s frontman is a living legend. No one epitomizes roots rock like Fogerty — who, despite CCR’s famous Southern sound, is a Berkeley native. His one-of-a-kind local vocals make a happy pair with Little Skillet’s fried chicken, Maverick’s pulled pork sandwiches, or Criolla Kitchen’s shrimp po’ boys.

www.sfoutsidelands.com/taste

 

Editor’s notes

0

marke@sfbg.com

“We live in turbulent times,” my uncle observed last Saturday. He’s right: the world is roiling.

This past week alone: 100,000 students marched in Santiago, Chile to protest education cuts. (The protest turned violent on Friday when police used excessive force and tear-gassed the crowd.) On Saturday, 300,000 people from across the political spectrum marched in Israel, mainly to protest rising housing costs. (A million-person march is planned for next week.)

Syria saw probably its bloodiest weekend of protests yet, as the government sent in more forces to crush anti-authoritarian uprisings. In Spain, a resurgent M-15 — the huge yet ambiguous protest organization that occupied Madrid’s main square this summer — was blocked by anti-riot police from re-occupying Puerto del Sol. And, in Tottenham, London, a peaceful vigil for a man slain by police was stoked into a weekend of riots that is spreading throughout the city as of this writing.

The swelling protests are all unique in their ways, but we certainly seem to be in the midst of a global “protest movement movement.” Many of the demonstrations — at least the nonviolent ones — have been presented in the media as a continuation of the Arab Spring, due to the important role of online social media and the peaceful, game-changing aspirations of participants. And in most of the recent protests, there is evidence of a frightened and over-reactive government (the Chinese government, quaking over growing unrest due to its cover-up of a train crash last month, is flailing at online censorship) or a woefully unprepared police force (the Tottenham police were severely late in addressing public questions about the shooting, and failed to heed community leader warnings about potential violence).

But all have to do with economic inequality, an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness in the face of ineffectual governance, and an onslaught of austerity cuts imposed from above. Last week’s odious debt ceiling charade by American “leaders” has just ensured massive national austerity cuts, and made the economy a lot more anxious (and unequal). Hands up if you feel powerless.

I think of two recent large examples of Bay Area economic unrest: the 2009 student demonstrations against University of California tuition hikes and the reaction to the Mehserle verdict last year. Are we prepared to channel the coming frustration into an expansive, nonviolent popular movement that builds on positive momentum, includes everyone, and brings a whiff of the Arab Spring to our shores?

Ear plugs

0

caitlin@sfbg.com

FESTIVAL I’m that person at the concert who is facing 90 degrees in the wrong direction when the DJ just busted everyone’s ankles or the guitarist is smashing an axe on the drummer’s head. I’m like: when did this festival relocate the bathrooms to the left of the Sunset Harmony Stage? The things we get excited over. Anyways, Outside Land producer Allen Scott of Another Planet Entertainment gave me (and now you!) some gems to hunt for and meditate on when the attention deficit takes over mid-John Fogerty.

McLaren Pass: You know that elevated pine glade up the hill from the horse corrals? During Hardly Strictly Bluegrass its luxuriously empty shade it is the perfect anti-crowd. In previous years of Outside Lands it’s been purposed as a VIP section — but this year, says Scott “it’ll be a surreal little experience.” The once-mellow path that runs along the ridge will open onto “Food Truck Forest,” a Mexican beer-and-burrito area dubbed “The Mission,” and perhaps most excitingly, “Chocolands,” where licorice lamp posts and gummi bear lanterns designed by a guy who does work for Family Guy and Tim Burton’s films will hang over stands staffed by local chocolatiers.

Some numbers: Outside Lands gives $3 million to the Recreation and Parks Department in exchange for using Speedway Meadows. The festival employs 2,500 people during the course of the weekend, including 500 security guards — some of them mounted on horses for added scariness for all those people who for sure are not sneaking into the festival. 97 percent of the festie workers are local hires.

Tighten it up: I was a serious pain in the ass about asking how people sneak into the festival (er, completely in the spirit of learning about the festival’s infrastructure — obviously I advocate paying lots of money to Outside Lands). Scott, the intelligent festival spokesperson that he is, wouldn’t give me anything juicy except that “we’re beefing up one area of the park that has been an Achilles heel.” And that he thinks that with measures like double fence layers around the festival very few people make it in without paying, so there.

Brush off: Perhaps you’ll notice a distinct lack of underbrush along the north end of the park area between the Twin Peaks and Panhandle stages. This isn’t a festival-driven pruning, Scott tells me — rather, Golden Gate Park arborists are attempting to return Speedway Meadows to its original design, which apparently involved a less bushy look.

Kitty city: I asked Scott what the biggest risk is that Outside Lands poses to Golden Gate Park’s ecosystem. He may or may not have understood what I was asking because he answered: “feral cats.” Apparently the fest has a responsibility to feed the furry devils and mitigate disturbance to their habitat. New area suggestion for next year: Tunalands.

Major lasers: Is the Polo Field feeling particularly level this year? According to Scott, the sense of equilibrium flooding your innermost soul during Phish’s mega-set on Friday will be due in part to Rec and Parks having laser-graded the grassy expanse where the main stage resides.

OUTSIDE LANDS Fri/12-Sun/14, $85-450. Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park. www.sfoutsidelands.com

 

Sneaky peeps

0

le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

Do you remember the chicken farmer? Not me. The real one, Fabienne Gagagaga, upon whose farm on the west coast of France I landed serendipitously a year-and-a-half ago when I was ejected from Germany?

Remember? I didn’t even know she was a chicken farmer until she picked me up at the train station in a pickup truck, with shit on her shoes and hay in her hair, and fed me homekilt lamb and the world’s best butter until I had regained enough strength to help her clean some coops and cook a cherry-beer- chicken-heart stew with so many hearts in it that I half-expected to still see it this time — a year-and-a-half-later — on the stove where it stayed, for days, while we dipped in every dinnertime.

Remember how I accidentally left the farm and fell into the hands of hippies from Pleiades, who anointed me with essential oils and tried to make suicide pacts with me? Well, ever since then I have been trying, in one way or another, to get back to the farm. I’ve been home, I’ve been happy, I’ve been scared, I’ve even been in love again, but still I have wanted to come back to this place, in a less depressed state of mind this time, and help Fabienne take care of her chickens. Voila.

After dark tonight, in about 10 minutes, we are going to “take care” of about a hundred of them. She has 102. Two are for eggs.

At 10 o’clock, she and I, her boyfriend Fred, and her dad — hold on. It’s 10 o’clock . . .

It’s noon, the next day. That’s three in the morning to you, and even though I’ve been here for a couple weeks already, being a chicken farmer — getting my chicken farmer back on, so to speak — it’s still confusing inside my body.

Her chickens are free-range, happy farm chickens, and she raises them (except the two) for meat. I stood outside in the rain last night, opening and closing plastic cages and counting to seven, over and over again, in French, while the others raided the coop and stuffed the cages. The happy part of 7 x 14 little free range lives was over.

Those plastic cages went onto a little trailer, and we went to bed so we could get up at four in the morning to take them to a sort of a finishing school. When they come back they will be finished. And that’s when the happiness begins for Fabienne’s customers.

Many of whom don’t want the hearts and livers. So this is also where the happiness begins for me. But I’m ahead of myself by even more than nine hours now.

Where was I, from a Cheap Eats standpoint? Oh yeah. Staying at the Edwardian Hotel for one night, and walking past Rebel Bar on our way to sushi. There was a sandwich board on the sidewalk that said “Sneaky’s BBQ” with an arrow pointing across the street to Martuni’s.

What the? — we both wondered, but did not stop to investigate because, although Hedgehog loves barbecue every bit as much as I do, we had our stomachs set on sushi.

After which we walked on the Martuni’s side of Market Street, but I didn’t even need to open the door to know they were not barbecuing — not even sneakily — in there. So we crossed the road.

Why?

Because I’m supposed to know about these things. We decided to have barbecue for dessert. There’s a thin line between rebellion and dyslexia, turns out. Of course that’s where Sneaky’s is.

We ordered a couple of PBRs and a mess o’ chicken wings, smoked, with the spicy habanero-jalapeno sauce. The bandanna’d dude at the table next to us turned out to be the cook. How sneaky of him. He jumped up when he heard spicy, all excited, and took over for our waitressperson, talking us into some kind of crazy spicy on-the-side sauce too, then disappearing into the kitchen.

The wings were good. Plenty spicy even without all the craziness. I can’t wait to come home now, to pork bellies, brisket, and pulled pork. Meanwhile, I’ll see you in my dreams, Sneaky.

 

SNEAKY’S BBQ

Inside Rebel Bar

Mon. 5-9 p.m.; Tue.-Fri. 5-10 p.m.; Sat. noon-10 p.m.; Sun. noon-9 p.m.

1760 Market, SF

(415) 431-4200

Full bar

AE/D/MC/V

 

State of apprentice

0

culture@sfbg.com

CAREERS AND ED In these transition times of underemployment, the internship has become the new entry level position in many industries. Sad but true. So listen up, future interns: look out for you. You’re not benefiting much if all you’re doing is unpaid paper pushing. Here is a list of internships that’ll have you making memories while also helping you gain some great field experience.

 

GENEVA CAR BARN AND POWER HOUSE

A new community center in the historic building across the street from the Balboa BART Station is in the works. Programs there will focus on training underserved youth for careers in the creative industry. Get in on the action with an internship for the digital story-telling program: interns will work as teachers assistants to help children find their voice through multimedia projects. Interns will work one-on-one with kids, helping them with their writing, trouble-shooting technical difficulties, editing projects, and helping to come up with ideas for ways to help or improve the class. The internship is open to high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

www.genevacarbarn.org

 

ALCATRAZ ISLAND

Who wouldn’t want to intern where Al Capone got locked up? At this National Parks Service internship, participants serve as information experts, providing information about the prison island 1.5 that lies waterlogged miles from the city. Interns get to roam around Alcatraz, helping tourists with directions and additional information and demonstrating the uses of antique prison equipment. They’ll have access to behind-the-scenes tours and other activities on “the Rock.” Sounds great for those working on their public speaking skills — or History Channel nuts, of course. Open to college students only.

bss.sfsu.edu/calstudies/nps

 

KQED

As you may be aware, public media is in need of some good PR these days. Come to its aide — you can train for your sterling career in hype with this public station’s communications internship. The lucky mouthpieces picked will assist with outreach, plus research and write for KQED’s monthly printed program guides. You’ll prepare press clippings, plus scout out print and broadcast media press contacts for program pitching. It’s too late to apply for the winter term, but apply by November for the January start of the spring term internship.

www.kqed.org

 

SAN FRANCISCO ZOOLOGICAL SOCIETY

If SF’s human zoo isn’t cutting it for you, get your internship fill of some other animals. For wannabe zoologists it doesn’t get any better than being an intern at the San Francisco Zoo. One of its internships involves working in the ZooMobile outreach program, for which interns help bring small animals places like schools and libraries to teach lessons about wild life. You’ll get hands-on experience with the ins and outs of zoo operations. The internship starts in September, lasts through June, and is open to college-age students and older folks. Allergy-prone candidates keep looking: all interns must be able to tolerate dust, hay, and animal hair-dander.

www.sfzoo.org

 

KNBR 680/1050

Looking into a career in radio or sports broadcasting? Why not work with the station that covers the Golden State Warriors and the defending National League baseball champions? KNBR 680/1050 offers an internship for those who are interested in radio programming. Though they’re required to do some clerical work, interns get the opportunity to assist KNBR’s programming department with scheduling, research, production, studio assistance, and event coordination. This internship is for college students, who can earn college credit for the position.

www.knbr.com

So classy

0

caitlin@sfbg.com

Reward the long-term relationships in your life by taking your game up a notch. Brain fitness? Bar-stocking skills? Bicyclist rights? It’ll all make for more scintillating dinner conversations, so take the pupil plunge. Most of the following classes will charge for your mental charge, but always remember that the Free University of San Francisco (www.freeuniversitysf.org) and the East Bay Free Skool (eastbayfreeskool.wikia.com) have incredible learning opportunities available gratis.

URBAN BICYCLING WORKSHOP

The streets can be a scary place for poor little meat puppets, particularly when one doesn’t know the rules of the road. Lucky for us, the SF Bike Coalition hosts regular crash courses on how not to crash on course. Its biking workshops cover everything from choosing the right bicycle for you, to traffic safety on two wheels, to getting your bike on BART, to your rights as a bicyclist. Did we mention it’s free? More power to the pedal.

Aug. 20, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., free. St. Anne’s Church, 1320 14th Ave., SF. www.sfbike.org

 

DIY LIQUEURS AND INFUSIONS

With one four-to-eight-ounce jar (err on the larger size, trust) you can take your party game up a notch. That’s because Sean Timberlake of Punk Domestics — a local site promoting fermentation and other home cooking processes — will be guiding you through the steps of creating a fantastically flavored liquor at community-food space 18 Reasons. Pluots? Cucumbers? Bananas and brandy? The world is alive and flavorful!

Aug. 23, 7-9 p.m., $40-50. 18 Reasons, 593 Guerrero, SF. www.18reasons.org

 

RIGID HEDDLE WEAVING

It’s not going to be summer forever, Gidget. Time to jump on a rigid heddle loom, which in addition to being a beach party of a phrase to say out loud is one of the easiest ways to learn how to weave a top-notch scarf for a cold season cover-up. This class requires you to bring some supplies with you, so make sure you check the website (and yarn store A Verb For Keeping Warm’s selection of chill-chasing threads) before heading over.

First class: Aug. 27, 2:30-5:30 p.m. Second class: Sept. 3, 3:30-4:30 p.m., $54-64. A Verb For Keeping Warm, 6328 San Pablo, Oakl. (510) 595-8372, www.averbforkeepingwarm.com

 

IAPP DESIGN

Those that control the iPhone applications, control the world. Seriously, we don’t care what market you’re in, your boss probably wants you to design an app for your company. On second thought, this class will definitely not improve your dinnertime banter, but if you can make your way through the course (and it does require a wee bit of prior computer knowledge), at least your talent will be popular!

Oct. 8, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., $155. San Francisco State Downtown Campus, 835 Market, SF. www.cel.sfsu.edu

 

MIND-BODY HEALTH

Okay this one for sure your friends will love. T’ai chi sessions included, this class will bestow upon you methodologies for getting physically healthier by getting mentally healthier. Clean out those mental cobwebs and untoward cognitive ruts, why don’tcha. The class is available in multiple locations — at the Mission branch of City College as well as a senior citizen home near Fort Mason.

Various City College of San Francisco class times and locations. www.ccsf.edu

 

SKILLSHARE

Once upon a time, a nationwide website took it upon itself to teach local communities how to teach themselves things. Recently, the site opened its e-doors to San Francisco, kind of. Classes haven’t started yet, but many potential listings are already up and you can sign up to be a “watcher” — someone who is interested in one of the course descriptions. Many of the courses are under $20, and will be taught by people who’ve got local cred in the topics at hand — which so far include fantasy football strategies, underground dinners, social media skills, and whiskey 101.

www.skillshare.com

Doom resurrection

0

arts@sfbg.com

Pentagram has had more members than many bands have songs. You could see the band three times and see 10 different people, with singer Bobby Liebling and his spooky, howling voice the only constant. But when Liebling takes the stage in San Francisco August 16, guitarist Victor Griffin will be beside him. Over the course of 30 years, their relationship has endured enough hardship and heartbreak to last a dozen lifetimes. When they stand together onstage, however, nothing can stop them.

Liebling, who founded Pentagram in 1971, grew up an only child in D.C.’s tony Virginia suburbs. When a high school guidance counselor suggested he take some time off before starting college, the goggle-eyed vocalist threw himself headlong into the two activities that would come to define the rest of his life: music and drugs.

Like Liebling, Griffin embarked on his rock ‘n’ roll career right out of high school. With friend and bassist Lee Abney, he had founded an outfit called Death Row, which gave voice to his thunderous, Sabbath-inspired guitar playing. In 1980, needing a drummer, the pair moved to D.C., where they linked up with Joe Hasselvander. The trio then began searching for a singer; with some trepidation, Hasselvander mentioned Liebling. He played Griffin a seven-inch single featuring two Pentagram classics: “Livin’ in a Ram’s Head” and “When the Screams Come.”

Reached by phone from his home in Tennessee, Griffin remembers that moment: “I was just blown away. To this day, that’s still one of my favorite recordings of Bobby.” Despite Liebling’s talents as a singer, however, Hasselvander had his doubts. “I was pretty much all for it,” continues Griffin, “but he went into a little more detail. He’d played with Bobby around ’78, and Bobby had blown some deals because of the drug use.”

Death Row decided to take a chance, inviting Liebling to try out. “We hit it off right away,” Griffin recalls. The guitarist had written lyrics for his songs, and rough vocal melodies, but he told Liebling to “just take it and do your thing with it.” The results were impressive. “What I can remember from that audition is just smiling from ear to ear,” Griffin says with a chuckle.

The pair formed a friendship and musical relationship that would last for three dramatic decades. Liebling was notoriously difficult to get along with, combining prickly pride and erratic, drug-induced behavior, but in Griffin, he found himself a partner, both in music and in crime. “Bobby and I have never had a problem with each other,” the guitarist allows. “We kind of share a weakness for drugs and alcohol. We kind of fed off each other.”

Liebling is enthusiastic: “We’re the same person in a lot of ways and nearly exactly the same person musically,” he wrote in an email interview.

Though the quartet initially performed as Death Row, it soon adopted the Pentagram moniker, losing two members, Hasselvander and Abney, in the process. Liebling and Griffin became the core of the band. But though they were producing some of the best Pentagram material to date, the duo never made it far outside the D.C. area. “Back in the olden days, we just didn’t really care,” says Griffin, ruefully. “It was the whole sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll attitude.”

Throughout the 80s and early 90s, the drugs continued to exact their toll. “We were our own worst enemy,” admits Griffin.

“I made a lot of bad decisions. I regret the ones that I made that hurt people. Especially people that I loved,” Liebling adds.

In 1996, after a seemingly endless litany of acrimonious disputes, Griffin quit the band. He eventually succeeded in ending his long-running addiction to drugs and alcohol, emerging in 2000 at the head of Place of Skulls, a new band heavily informed by the guitarist’s embrace of a fervent Christian faith.

Liebling was left, as he had been at many times in his career, with a band name, a collection of songs, and not much else. Even his storied voice was beginning to decay, thanks to nearly forty years of heroin and cocaine abuse. It wasn’t until he met his now-wife, Hallie — 27 years his junior — in 2006, that he was finally able to get clean. When guitarist Russ Strahan quit a patchwork version of Pentagram the day before the start of the band’s 2010 tour, Liebling called Griffin.

Now sober, the guitarist was interested, but skeptical. “I wasn’t sure I believed it. I’ve heard every story Bobby’s ever had to tell. I know him as [well] — or better — than most people.” Still, Griffin agreed to rejoin the band on the condition that Liebling remain clean.

Since that fateful decision, Pentagram is arguably more secure and more successful than it’s ever been. In April 2011, the band released the thunderous studio album Last Rites. On the road, Liebling and Griffin look out for each other, supporting each other’s efforts to stay sober. “There’s a lot of people out there who would like to screw you up,” explains the guitarist. “I think that both of us being on the same page with all this stuff is definitely a help — to know that you’ve got a brother there with you, who’s gonna back you up.”

Liebling agrees. “The band is stronger when we are together,” he says. “I am so lucky to have him back.”

When asked if he thinks Pentagram might finally be getting a second chance, Griffin is cautiously optimistic: “Sometimes it seems like we never really got a first chance. We’re trying to take advantage of it now, and make better decisions than we used to make back then. Live better lives.” 

PENTAGRAM

With Pelican, Alpinist, Masakari, Early Graves, Baptists, and Aeges

Tues/16, 6:30 p.m., $25

Mezzanine

444 Jessie, SF

www.mezzaninesf.com

 

Shelter from the storm

0

rebeccab@sfbg.com

Ms. Li has a petite build, but she’s physically strong. Hauling around dish bins and boxes of produce weighing 50 pounds was part of her daily routine when she worked shifts lasting 12 hours a day, six days a week, at a San Francisco Chinatown eatery that later made headlines for its poor labor standards.

Li, who did not share her full name for fear of retaliation, says things have improved slightly since the days she worked at King Tin Restaurant, which closed its doors abruptly in 2004 after workers who hadn’t seen paychecks in months filed an onslaught of complaints. At the time, her husband was unemployed and she was struggling to support her two teenagers on a single paycheck totaling $950 a month.

It took about five years before the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE), the City Attorney’s Office, and grassroots advocates with the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) finally succeeded in forcing the restaurant’s previous owner to grant Li and other workers the back wages they were owed.

Now, she’s working 12 hour shifts, five days a week at a different restaurant, but says she still isn’t receiving minimum wage or overtime pay. Li aided in the efforts of the Progressive Workers Alliance (PWA) to urge members of the Board of Supervisors to pass the Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance, which aims to strengthen enforcement of local labor standards by empowering OLSE to take a more proactive role against employers who don’t pay workers what they’re owed.

As a kitchen worker at a high-end restaurant in downtown San Francisco, Li receives a monthly paycheck totaling a little more than $1,400 before taxes. Take-home pay is less, because the employer deducts for meals, a requirement that cannot be dodged even if employees bring their own food.

Li told the Guardian her coworkers are angry about the working conditions, but fear of job loss keeps them silent. “Some of my coworkers work so hard that they cry,” she said, speaking through a translator. “One worker was burned badly in the kitchen, and didn’t receive worker’s compensation or paid sick leave.” That person uses their own ointment to treat the burns, she added.

As she described her predicament at the CPA office in Chinatown, student volunteers were creating a banner to be displayed during a press event at City Hall. They arranged folded red and yellow petitions signed by workers in similar situations to spell out PWA, for Progressive Worker’s Alliance, to urge city officials to crack down on employers who violate local labor laws.

PWA has been meeting regularly since last year, but the organizations that are part of the advocacy group have been engaged in organizing low-wage workers for much longer. Over the course of more than three years, CPA interviewed hundreds of restaurant workers in Chinatown, and their surveys revealed that about half were not receiving San Francisco’s minimum wage, while about 75 percent weren’t being paid overtime when they worked more than 40 hours a week. Yet the problem of wage theft in San Francisco extends well beyond Chinatown.

PWA includes representatives from CPA, the Filipino Community Center, Young Workers United, People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER), the San Francisco Day Labor Program, and Pride at Work, among others. On August 2, workers and organizers with PWA burst into thunderous applause after the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to pass the Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance on first reading. This represented a major victory.

“With the economic crisis, and the backlash against workers, we felt that as a small grassroots organization, we needed to have a more powerful voice and a specific space for worker issues to be brought to light,” CPA lead organizer Shaw San Liu said of the impetus behind PWA.

“You’re talking about workers who are pretty vulnerable — not knowing the laws, not speaking the language. People who need a job and cannot afford to lose it are vulnerable to exploitation,” Liu said.

While labor laws in San Francisco are uniquely strong, with mandatory paid sick leave and local minimum wage established at $9.92 per hour, “When it comes to implementation and enforcement, there’s still a lot left to be desired,” Liu said. As things stand, investigation of employer violations are predicated on worker complaints, and it can take years for a worker to get a hearing if they’re owed back wages.

The Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance doubles the fines for employers who retaliate against workers who file complaints. It allows OLSE investigators to issue immediate citations if they detect a problem in a workplace. When an employer comes under investigation, it requires them to post a notice informing workers that they have a right to cooperate with investigators — and imposes a fine for failing to post the notice. It also establishes a one-year timeline in which cases brought to OSLE’s attention must be resolved.

Under the new law, employers would also be required to provide contact information to their workers, an important change for day laborers who are sometimes taken to job sites where they perform manual labor, only to be dropped off later without payment and no way to get in touch with their temporary bosses.

“You have raised awareness about the crisis of wage theft,” OLSE director Donna Levitt told workers at an Aug. 2 rally outside City Hall. “And we have made it clear that wage theft will not be tolerated in our city.”

The ordinance was spearheaded by Sups. David Campos and Eric Mar, with Sups. Jane Kim, John Avalos, Ross Mirkarimi, and Board President David Chiu signing on as co-sponsors. Members of PWA met with supervisors to win their support, and even succeeded in bringing on board the influential Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

“The fact is that even though we have minimum wage laws in place, those laws are still being violated not only throughout the country, but here in San Francisco,” Campos told the Guardian. “Wage theft is a crime, and we need to make sure that there is adequate enforcement — and that requires a change in the law so that we provide [OLSE] more tools and more power to make sure that the rights of workers are protected.”

Victoria Aquino, 66, spent several years working 16-hour hours without minimum wage or overtime pay as the sole live-in caregiver for six disabled patients at a San Francisco care center. Her duties included feeding patients, bathing them, changing diapers, and cleaning.

“The patients would knock to wake me up and ask me for cigarettes or food in the middle of the night,” she recounted, “and I wasn’t paid for that.” She first complained to OLSE after one of the patients physically attacked her, leaving her black and blue with a permanently injured finger, and later sought the help of the Filipino Community Center to file a claim demanding back wages. It took months, but her employer eventually settled, agreeing to pay $60,000 in back wages and reduce her shifts to eight hours a day.

Aquino said she became involved with the Filipino Community Center because “there are a lot of caregivers still suffering, and more than I suffered — especially those who don’t know the laws. I sympathize for them. It hurts me when I hear some caregivers who are no longer supposed to work. They’re past their 70s, and they’re still working.”

View from the middle

4

OPINION Editor’s Note: Between the well-funded, politically connected campaign pushing Ed Lee to run for mayor and the high-profile critics who say he should keep his word and step down, it’s hard to tell how the average city resident feels. So to reflect that perspective, we’re reprinting a letter that was sent to Lee on July 29.

Dear Mayor Lee,

My name is Peter Nasatir; I’m a middle-aged, middle class San Franciscan who works in middle management. I’m not an activist and I have no political ax to grind. In fact, I rarely write letters like this, but felt compelled to do so because I’ve been reading how you are considering a run for mayor this November. For your own integrity, and the good of the city, I urge you not to run.

One of the reasons you have been able to achieve the successes you’ve enjoyed this year is because San Franciscans know your time is finite, thus giving you the ability to avoid the kind of hard slog other mayors have found themselves in. You have been able to stay above the fray and receive near-universal support precisely because you’ve been able to do the amazing job you’re doing without having an eye on the upcoming election.

If you run, you’ll look like another cynical politician, who promises one thing and does another. Plus, with your experience, think how much political capital you’ll have when you return to your old position. And if you decide to run in 2015, you’ll already have on-the-job training no other candidate would have and have proven yourself to be a real leader for taking the high road.

I know Willie Brown and Rose Pak, who are considered influential community leaders, have been at the forefront of your bid to run. However, they also carry a lot of damaging baggage. Just look at the front page of today’s (July 29th) Chronicle. With their names attached to your run for mayor, your image in the eyes of many San Francisco voters is already tainted before you even have a chance to file your papers.

As much as I respect you and the incredible job you are doing, I can say without hesitation that if your name is on the ranked-choice ballot this November, I will not vote for you in any of the three positions.

On behalf of many like-minded San Francisco voters, I urge you to do the right thing and not run for mayor this November.

Thanks you for your consideration of this matter.  

Sincerely, 

Peter Nasatir

Ecological rewind

25

rebeccab@sfbg.com

Follow the trail from Yosemite National Park’s Rancheria Falls up along dusty switchbacks and down through a canopy of pines and madrones for roughly three miles, and you will reach Tiltill Valley.

Accessible only to hikers and horseback riders, the backwoods meadow hums with the chatter of birds, bees, and the distant rush of water spilling over rocks. Butterflies dart among wild orchids, lilies, yarrow, and other kinds of flowering plants that thrive there, and a lone sequoia stands along the perimeter. The valley floor is lush and boggy, with the forested hills of the High Sierra as its backdrop.

Tiltill Valley is a real-life example of what Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley might look like if the reservoir that holds San Francisco’s water supply were drained and the terrain allowed to return to its natural state, according to Mike Marshall, executive director of Restore Hetch Hetchy.

His nonprofit group has a singular mission, as the title suggests. The upbeat, 50-year-old former political consultant wants to place a charter amendment on the November 2012 ballot to ask San Francisco voters if Hetch Hetchy Reservoir should be drained so that the valley, which has been underwater since 1923, can be ecologically restored and turned into an attraction for park visitors.

Yet that simply stated goal belies an extraordinarily difficult and expensive task, one that would fundamentally alter San Francisco’s water delivery system and diminish a city-owned source of inexpensive, green energy.

“The destruction of Hetch Hetchy Valley in the 1920s was the worst environmental disaster to ever besiege the national park system,” Marshall says. “And today, it is completely out of whack with the values of the vast majority of people who live here.”

But most city officials think this idea is just plain crazy. Whether or not it was a good idea to build the dam originally, they say it’s unwise and unrealistic to spend scarce resources to destroy one of city’s most valuable assets.

“While it is an interesting idea, I don’t think that there is yet a credible plan to move forward and actually restore Hetch Hetchy that will ensure that within our budget, we’ll be able to get the water that 2.5 million Bay Area customers need, as well as do everything else that the current Hetch Hetchy system does,” Board President David Chiu told the Guardian.

Based in San Francisco, Restore Hetch Hetchy worked in tandem with the Environmental Defense Fund and a consulting firm to craft a technical analysis describing how the city could continue receiving reliable freshwater deliveries without the reservoir, although it would require filtration because of its lower quality and be less abundant in drought years.

While restoring the valley would be an ecological win in a perfect world, cost estimates range in the billions of dollars at a time when budgets are shrinking and economic turbulence rocks the public and private sectors.

Draining Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and replacing it with other water and power projects would punch holes in an already cash-strapped city budget, first with the high capital costs and then with higher long-term annual costs. The hydro-electric system provides carbon-free electricity to city agencies at basement rates and helps fund local renewable-energy projects, so relinquishing some of that generation capacity would be a step backward when it comes to addressing climate change.

“The loss of Hetch Hetchy Reservoir would fly in the face of every effort San Francisco has made to replace fossil-fuel power generation with renewable energy sources,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera wrote in a 2004 editorial in the Guardian. Losing hydropower from the dam, he wrote, “would force greater dependence on fossil-fuel electricity and impair low-cost hydropower with higher-cost renewables, making San Francisco’s efforts to create a sustainable energy future virtually impractical. And it would devastate our efforts to enact a public power system in San Francisco. Hetch Hetchy was built by people who envisioned a public power system to serve all of San Francisco. We should finish that system before we start tearing it down.”

But when a round of invitations went out to Bay Area journalists to join a three-day backpacking trip in Yosemite and learn about Restore Hetch Hetchy’s vision, I signed up to attend. After all, here was a chance to go backpacking in beautiful terrain and assess one of the most controversial and impactful proposals facing San Francisco.

 

WATER

Our first stop within park boundaries was a chocolate-colored chalet with a spacious deck overlooking the waterfront. Owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), it’s notorious in San Francisco politics as a weekend getaway for local elected officials, city commissioners, and favored staffers. Stories of the chalet abound, as it’s rumored to have been the site of private soirees for powerful players and a rendezvous for lovers in extramarital affairs.

The eight-mile long, 300-foot deep Hetch Hetchy Reservoir holds 360,000 acre-feet of water, and the dam itself is an impressive structure, although Marshall scoffs at the popular wisdom casting it as “a marvel of engineering,” and dryly quips, “so was the Titanic.”

Native American remains were buried underwater when it was built, Marshall told us as we peered out over the towering dam wall, and 67 lives were lost during construction. As we rounded the perimeter of the man-made water body, sweating in the summer heat and saddled with gear, he asked us to imagine peering down into a dramatic sloping valley instead of what it looks like in its current state, which is a lake.

“Don’t call it a lake,” he insisted. Restore Hetch Hetchy regards the reservoir as an unnatural blemish that should never have been imposed upon a scenic and biodiverse environment in a national park. According to Mark Cedorborg, an ecological restoration expert with Hanford ARC and a Restore Hetch Hetchy board member who joined the trip, it wouldn’t take long for the natural ecosystem to bounce back if the water were removed, recreating a rare wildlife habitat that would mirror Yosemite Valley.

Sierra Club founding president John Muir would have sided with them, of course. The famous ecologist wrote passionately about the valley and vehemently fought the effort to submerge it. At the time, a chorus of opposition arose against flooding Hetch Hetchy — and that was before modern science documenting the impacts dams have wrought on the environment.

A black-and-white image of Michael O’Shaughnessy, the civil engineer behind the project, is posted on an info kiosk beside the dam, his eyebrows arched in a wizard-like, calculating gaze as he uses a pointer to mark the spot on a map of San Francisco’s watershed.

As things stand today, Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is a crucial storage facility for drinking water. Freshwater flowing from the Tuolumne River through the glacial formation accounts for 85 percent of SFPUC deliveries to about 2.5 million customers in the city and on the peninsula.

Hetch Hetchy is unique in that it’s just one of a handful of water systems nationwide that uses chemical treatment and ultraviolet disinfection, but no filtration, to purify fresh water that is transported along a gravity-fed system down to the city.

SFPUC spokesperson Tyrone Jue said Hetch Hetchy water does not require filtration “because basically, it’s a giant granite basin there in the reservoir, so there’s no sedimentation.” He added that the water quality is exceptionally high. “It’s high up in the watershed. The higher up in the watershed, the better it is.”

Restore Hetch Hetchy has submitted a number of proposals to ensure that San Francisco could still receive adequate supplies without the reservoir, including constructing a new intertie at Don Pedro Reservoir, which lies downstream from Hetch Hetchy, to get drinking water supplies from there instead.

Under this scenario, the SFPUC would continue to get its water from the Tuolumne River — but it would have to build a new filtration system to treat it because the water quality would be worse and the city would lose its federal waiver.

That’s an expensive consideration, particularly at a time when city coffers are depleted, critical services for vulnerable populations have been gutted, and taxpayers are wary of authorizing costly new endeavors.

Marshall defends the cost by asserting that the current system is flawed; the lack of filtration makes San Francisco’s water more susceptible to contamination from nasty microorganisms like cryptosporidium and giardia, he says.

“San Francisco has a unique health demographic in that over 5 percent of the people that live in the city have compromised immune systems, if you just look at people who are HIV positive,” he said. “Ultimately, San Francisco is going to be forced to filter its water, so why are we kicking this can down the road?”

But filtering water at the residential level would be far cheaper than tearing down the dam. Jue pegs the cost of a new filtration system at somewhere between $3 billion and $10 billion, but Marshall rejects that estimate as “just crazy.”

So we called Xavier Irias, director of engineering at the East Bay Municipal Utility District. “Ten looks a little high, but the three sounds very credible,” Irias said, acknowledging that there were many complicating factors that could affect cost. Ultimately, he said, the cost range could be anywhere from half a billion to the single-digit billions of dollars.

“With the filtration costs, not only are you talking about building a facility to filter the water, you’re now talking about increased power consumption to basically power those filtration plants,” Jue noted. “You’d have to start pumping water, which would require additional energy. And then on top of that, there’s the long-term operation.”

What’s more is that the quantity of water that San Francisco now depends on wouldn’t be guaranteed every year. According to an analysis done in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund, reconfiguring the system to tap Don Pedro would result in 19 percent less water delivered from the Tuolumne in critically dry years, and similar losses would result from alternative proposals like tapping Cherry Reservoir, another storage facility in the SFPUC system.

Restore Hetch Hetchy has suggested that the shortfall could be made up in part with new water-conservation measures, something that cities arguably ought to be practicing anyhow since climate change threatens to bring about drier conditions in California’s watershed. It could also place the city in the position of having to go to the open market to purchase water for customers — just as dwindling water supplies raise the temperature between cities and counties scrambling to secure reliable deliveries.

“The Hetch Hetchy water system is a fully owned public asset,” Jue notes. “At a time when state and federal governments are struggling with even being able to close our budget deficits, to even look at dismantling an environmentally sound, cost-efficient water system that delivers water to 2.5 million people is sort of outrageous.”

 

POWER

In addition to capturing the flow of pristine Tuolumne River water that eventually makes its way into the city’s plumbing network, O’Shaughnessy Dam is a key component of the SFPUC-owned hydro-electric system, which produced 1.7 billion kilowatt hours of power last year with no greenhouse gas emissions.

If efforts to advance the cause of a public power system resurfaced in San Francisco, having the full capacity of the Hetch Hetchy hydro-electric generation in place would be vital. Juice for city streetlights, Muni’s light rail cars, the chandeliers adorning the Board Chambers in City Hall, and countless other municipal uses are derived from this gravity-fed system, which provides roughly one-fifth of San Francisco’s overall energy needs.

City departments pay three or four cents per kilowatt-hour, less than what it costs to generate the power. If all the hydro-electric power were eliminated and substituted with PG&E power, the city would get pinned with $32 million in additional costs annually, and its carbon footprint would expand by more than 900 million pounds of greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the SFPUC. However, a technical report produced by the Environmental Defense Fund suggests the city would only suffer a 20 percent decline in the hydro-electric output, since operations at other SFPUC reservoirs would continue.

The hydro-electric system also generates revenue through the sale of excess power to Turlock and Modesto irrigation districts, but that would come to an end if the generation capacity fell by 20 percent. Restore Hetch Hetchy estimates this loss to be around $10 million annually.

“Whenever we sell the power to Modesto and Turlock, that revenue then goes to fund programs like GoSolarSF, and all of our energy-efficiency retrofits of municipal facilities,” Jue explains. If the city lost its ability to sell off this excess supply, “We would no longer be getting power revenue at all, which we’re using to help fund community choice aggregation.”

Fraught with problems as it is, the city’s effort to launch a community choice aggregation program offering residential customers an alternative to PG&E nevertheless holds promise as a powerful green shift for a major metropolitan hub. For all the ecological benefits to Yosemite, restoring Hetch Hetchy could wind up undercutting the fledgling green power initiative, and the upshot would be a boon for PG&E. Coupled with the fact that ceding control of the valley back to the National Park Service could strip the city of its mandate for public power, the utility giant would benefit tremendously from this plan.

All of this makes it somewhat surprising that District 5 Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, a longtime champion of the cause of public power, appointed Marshall to serve on the SFPUC Citizens Advisory Committee, a move that rankled SFPUC staff.

“I’ve known Mike many years and have found him to be whip smart when it comes to complicated policy issues,” Mirkarimi told the Guardian when asked about this. “He knows that I am an unwavering supporter for public power and that I’d hope his advocacy on the SFPUC continues to advance and innovate our locally-driven clean energy objectives.”

 

POLITICS

The concept of bringing back Hetch Hetchy Valley originated with the Sierra Club in 1999, and several mainstream environmental organizations have lent support for the cause although few have made it a high priority. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of financial backing and support from key political players to keep the vision alive.

Democratic County Central Committee Chair Aaron Peskin, a member of Restore Hetch Hetchy’s national advisory board, told me he’s been active with the group for at least a decade, making him a rare exception among the city’s political leaders.

“San Francisco is a remarkably sophisticated town that is technologically advanced and environmentally advanced, and this is an opportunity to right one of the most destructive environmental wrongs,” he said. “It’s time to start a local and national conversation.”

He acknowledged that there were a lot of technical issues to contend with, saying, “It should only be done in a way that makes sure San Francisco and communities that rely on the system are taken care of.”

Major funders backing Restore Hetch Hetchy include retired businesspeople from the financial sector, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, council members of the Yosemite Conservancy, and Lance Olson, a Restore Hetch Hetchy board member and partner in Olson Hagel & Fishburn, LLP, a prominent Sacramento legal firm that represents the California Democratic Party and elected officials.

Other influential and politically connected individuals have joined the effort as well. Marshall assured me that “no one from PG&E has given us a dime.” Yet the project still faces some powerful opponents. “I have opposed removing the O’Shaughnessy Dam in Hetch Hetchy Valley for decades and I remain opposed,” U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein told the Guardian. “Draining the reservoir would endanger San Francisco’s water supply, further jeopardize California’s water infrastructure and impose a huge financial burden on the state.”